In This Review

Lovesick Japan: Sex Marriage Romance Law
Lovesick Japan: Sex Marriage Romance Law
By Mark D. West
Cornell University Press, 2011, 272 pp.

West, a law professor, examines Japanese society through an unconventional prism -- court judgments on crimes involving love and sex. He is interested in both the reasoning of judges and the behavior of perpetrators and victims. It turns out that many Japanese judges hold beliefs that would be out of the mainstream in the United States: that paying for sex is akin to paying for health treatments such as massage therapy, that intercourse normally involves the use of force, that a man should be able to decide single-handedly whether his child is to be aborted, and that love is a dark emotion that can sometimes excuse murder. The people who appear before the courts seem to suffer from an epidemic of sexual isolation, loveless marriages, stalking, murder, and suicide. It is hard to be sure what those extreme cases say about Japanese society in general. But West convincingly links them to broader social problems, such as low birthrates and rising divorce rates.